back to the classroom

KWL (know now | what | learn) FTW (for | the | win)

an everyday yoga philosophy conversation and lessons on learning

I recently had an interesting conversation with a yoga student of mine. I’ve been taking him through the foundations of yoga since last year, and it’s been so cool to witness the progress in both mind and body. I’ve certainly grown as a teacher as well.

But something unusual happened last week that I thought was important to reflect on. I share this now because I deeply respect and celebrate any moment when people authentically want to learn and grow and will do the work to find the growth they need.

For the past 6 months in our yoga sessions, we’ve never truly waded the waters of yoga philosophy as a stand-alone learning session, it’s mostly been asana (posture) practice. Asana is where many people need to start when beginning yoga.

Typically I have my yoga clients settle in at the top of the practice – quietly cultivating awareness of the moment, paying close attention to the breath, retreating inward. But after this particular silent meditation, something changed and we stopped just before what would typically be the beginning of the postural (asana) practice. Because he was full of questions. (I wonder now if I had said anything that may have triggered his line of questions!)

He started by asking for my take on “energy” when it comes to yoga:

How does yoga see energy differently that perhaps other disciplines do not see; why does yoga see it differently? 

Many of my clients have found that when they are more present in the day to day activities of life, things go entirely better. This is why yoga is so useful, we practice being in the moment and then take our practice off the mat, into the world. And although they come from completely different lifestyles and backgrounds (professionals, entrepreneurs, parenting experts, or caring for parents, artists, etc), each taking measure to avoid early stress and failing of health, and practice to promote sustainable mindfulness and movement

Let me pause for a moment and ask you WHAT DO YOU KNOW right here, right now? What’s your reality in this hour? What have you learned and know from your experiences, first or second-hand witnessing of people, nature, etc…, from study, mentorship, etc. You know a lot.

Now this little post is less about yoga + energy philosophy (sorry, maybe that’s a future post), and more about learning something today. Not from me. You will teach yourself. This yoga philosophy conversation I had illuminates a form of learning that I will share now in a “KWL” exercise.

KWL exercise for learning

Originally I trained at a University for education and we used the KWL exercise when helping students learn. KWL meaning: What do you KNOW? What do you WANT to know? What have you LEARNED?

“K” – What do you know?

It’s so important to know where you truly are in your thoughts and knowledge right now! Building on an honest and authentic foundation of “knowing what you know” is most important as it allows us to access what we have versus what we are looking for. It also helps us understand some preconceived ideas, opinions, habits, that we tend to carry around.

So instead of writing ALL that you know (that would take your entire lifetime to describe, and we don’t have that time), just pick something (just one thing!) that you’re curious about, or something that is troubling you, or an area you’d like to grow in or learn, and write down all the things you do know about the subject right now. (For you teachers out there, yes this is true KWL organization at it’s finest…) Read on for some added clarity.

Helpful nudge – This subject you’re brain-dumping about is simply one “thing” you’d like to learn, and is not meant to be a “master goals list” for the next decade. Please don’t do that to yourself. What we’re doing here is just an exercise. Just pick something you’d like to become better at or know more about is all.

Examples:

learning how to hang a large photo on a wall

learning how to peel garlic in a better way

learning how to respond with a little more kindness or silence when that person that triggers you shows up in your life again

learning how to do dancer’s pose in yoga! (Ha, had to throw that in.)

maybe someone said something really intriguing last week and you can’t shake it and want to know more about what they meant. 

Here’s my “K”:
“What do you know (Michelle) about writing?”

I know that in order to write well and write better it takes a lot of time, practice, patience as well as a ton of humility and authenticity. It also requires me to continue to be curious about almost everything. Writing is hard and I have a long, difficult history with it. Personally I know a lot of good writers. I don’t feel adequate as a writer.

This is what is true right here and right now about this topic for me. Now your turn. What do you know about the topic you’ve chosen?

“W” – What do you want to know?

Staying focused on one thing when it comes to learning rather than trying to take it all in one big gulp facilitates ease in learning. You know your focal point and return to this over and over again. Really, you’re just stating your topic of interest you described in the “K” of the first step, but it’s going to be very clear.

Here’s my “W”: What do you (Michelle) want to specifically know about writing better?

For me it’s learning how to write more simply, honestly and consistently by facilitating connection with my true self, letting that come out, and thereby helping others do the same thing. I want to learn how to get unstuck. 

Your turn – what specifically do you want to know?

Write this down with the brain of a scientist. It’s as if I asked you, “how many cars are in the parking lot?” and you’re just answering that question. Submit your answer now:

Your turn again, what specifically do you want to know?

Make it simple and clear. Don’t overthink this.

I added a step 2.5. Don’t judge. 🙂

Here’s a quick peak of my Steps 2.5 and 3:

Step 2 ½: Do the thing (Michelle). Write and write better than before. Be consistent.

In 2020, I took 2 writing courses (already!) and have started writing more consistently and authentically.

Step 3: What have you learned ?

I’ll let you know later. But for today, I’ve learned that the words are there, ready for me to get out. That writing of mine may not be perfect writing, but it’s writing nonetheless, and it’s mine. I also know I’m good at being very consistent, and I am very good at practicing, so these attributes can be helpful when it comes to writing. 

Circling back to that “yoga energy” conversation & applying this “KWL” exercise.

My client’s KWL last week could look like something like this:

What did Client know (as of last week)? 

Yoga sees energy differently than most western ways of thinking; definitely different from what I understand. I have a long history of being a skeptic. This has proved both useful and a hinderance for me. For the past half-decade, things are better when I am more present.

What did he want to know? 

Can this yoga-energy way of thinking truly help me? What the heck does my yoga teacher think of this? What does 2000+ years of yoga say about it?

What did he learn (post-conversation)?

Perhaps “Eastern” and “western” philosophies are not in conflict with one another. Maybe they are two sides of the same coin? I feel like I’m on the right track even if this isn’t all clear. The yogic philosophy describes a lot of different “energy bodies” and the asana (postural) practice is mean to help clear up some energy blockage. I feel free and safe to explore this more without losing my sense of self or identity. It is ok for me to explore the yogic philosophy of the subtle body, energy systems and the like. I’m hungry to learn more and believe this will serve myself and the people around me in a better way.

Adding a little more structure into how we learn creates space for authentic self refection and growth. I also feel like it helps us stay really present and helps us to progress, when appropriate. It can also feel really satisfying!

I hope this little KWL experiment will help you grow a little more in the direction you’d like to run, walk or fall towards!

Any questions, or observations, chime in below!

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